Sydney's rockabilly cult: The ultimate guide
Sydney's rockabilly craze is in full swing. All over the city, they are springing up -- guys with
Brylcreemed and quiffed hair, rolled-up sleeves, stovepipe jeans and
brothel-creeper shoes -- think Elvis, or Brando in "The Wild One."
So are Betty Page-styled girls, wearing ribbons and victory rolls in their hair; pedal-pushers and Leopard-skin anything.
These rockabillies have been flocking to the Rock n Roll & Alternative Market at the Jets Sports Club, Tempe, on the third Sunday of each month.
They’re cruising for vintage and rock 'n' roll clothes; as well as dusty vinyl and CDs, books and art stalls.
A recent celebration of rockabilly ‘kustom kulture’ saw rockabillies flock to the first VaVoom Fest at the Sydney Showground.
even more to this subculture than meets the eye.
Fakers can be easily caught out. Who do you listen to? What do you wear? Where are your tattoos? And what do you drive? There's a lot to master.
So be careful: if you want to be a rockabilly, you better do it properly. Rather than jive you around, here’s the skinny on how to be hip in Sydney’s scene.
Rockabilly began as a musical genre; a blend of rock 'n' roll and country. Elvis gets much of the credit, but Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Ricky Nelson, Wanda Jackson, Eddie Cochran and 80s revivalists The Stray Cats are synonymous with the culture. Any serious rockabilly has these artists on their shelves.
These days rockabilly regularly merges into swing (Imelda May), ska (Amazing Royal Crowns) and back to country (Kitty Daisy Lewis) while breaking off into sub-genres punka-billy (The Living End) and psycho-billy (The Cramps and The Horrorpops) and cow-punk (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club). So take your pick.
Dress to impress
The look is nostalgic yet cool -– when guys were guys and girls were dolls -- and none of this gender blurring you see in today’s fashion. You've got to get it right.
Route 66 (257 Crown St, Darlinghurst) takes the greasiest route with Levis and Wranglers, pencil skirts, circle dresses, garage and bowling shirts and vintage cowboy boots.
Across the road, Wheels & Dollbaby’s (259 Crown St, Darlinghurst) 1950s-era elegance carries the label of retro style icon Dita Von Teese of Burlesque performer and retro; that Kate Moss struts down the catwalk.
Newtown’s Faster Pussycat (431a King St) caters to the whole rockabilly family with wartime-era racks that includes jumpsuits and Ts for rockabilly babies.
Those finishing touches
Those willing to fully commit to the movement can say it with the pinpoint accuracy of tattoos: Sailor Jerry’s swallows, anchors and pin-up girls are all definitely
back in style; and much preferred to barbed-wire arm-bands and butterfly tramp-stamps.
Ladies interested in perfecting the pomp and victory rolls, make-up and real life pin-up girl look can take the Boogie Bop Dames course. You’ll be given the tools and tricks of the trade to take home, to be a rockabilly beauty every day.
Shining hot rods, rusted-out rat rods and deadly dragsters encapsulate the 50s vintage ride. While an American model is truly classic, think local with a refurbished FJ or EJ Holden, or Chrysler Valiant.
The Day of the Drags at Eastern Creek sees old school drag racing, sounds from The Creepers and No Brakes and a vintage pinup competition for the ladies.
Gigs keep rockabilly-ing on. DJ duo Jive and Wail! perform neo-swing at free club night Jump at the Chalmers Hotel. Shake Rattle and Roll is the first Saturday of every month at the Petersham Inn.
The 50-50 Club night at the retro-fitted the Vanguard with its ‘dress to get laid’ dress code, is a place to ‘look clean but feel dirty’.
Find extensive and regular updates of events and gigs at Rockabilly Retro.
Now you know, if you dare rockabilly: dress yourself up, jump in your topless Valiant and take that 1950s vintage ride for a groove session.